In our most recent Final Hooter podcast Adrian Jackson and Dave Parkinson chatted to Neil Kelly about his return to rugby league with Dewsbury Rams.
Reflecting on his appointment Neil said: “It’s been a whirlwind two weeks, but things are starting to settle down now and I’m getting into the week-to-week things that you need to do at a rugby club.”
So what has changed in the game since Neil’s last involvement in a coaching capacity (at Leigh in 2009)?
“It’s more the vocabulary. I don’t think it’s necessarily the game that has changed. Some tactics have changed, some trends have changed and even one or two rules have changed but the biggest thing for me is the vocabulary of the different plays. Quite often the plays are the same but there is a different name for them. I’m still calling “support” and the players are expecting me to say “push” so it’s just the use of vocabulary mainly.”
The latest assignment for the former Widnes, Wales and Leigh boss has an air of familiarity. In an almost “Back to the Future” way Kelly again finds himself at the place where his coaching career started in 1996.
“A lot of things change but in far more ways things haven’t changed at all. The people at the club are still honest people and it’s nice to be back.”
The parallels are there to be made with Dewsbury in a very similar position to when Kelly first took on the role.
“The similarities between that time and now are stark. In many ways the club’s not in a great situation, obviously, or they probably wouldn’t want a coach. Twenty-odd years ago they were in a similar situation where they were in danger of being relegated. It was the first summer season and we had a fairy tale time. We recovered and got stronger and stronger. I’m looking to repeat it, if possible, but that is easier said than done.”
“Money wasn’t thick on the ground back then and there is always pressure, financially, at clubs like Dewsbury, but what we achieved, we achieved as we became more successful. That created more money and we got stronger. It is very much a spiral, you can either go down the spiral or you can climb up it. I’m looking to do that again.”
At the time of interview Kelly had just secured his second win from three games following a pulsating golden point game with near neighbours Batley.
“Fortunately the wins have come against our local rivals and it’s always good to beat them. These sandwiched a game against Sheffield that wasn’t so good and highlighted some of the areas we need to work on and the reasons why our league position at the moment isn’t as healthy as we’d like it to be. There’s a few changes at the club that I’d like to make to put my stamp on it.”
The club have brought in hooker or halfback Sam Day on loan from Featherstone, while centre Hamish Barnes has returned to Keighley following his release by the Rams.
Further changes are also likely behind the scenes after assistant coaches Jonathan Schofield and Karl Pryce also left the club.